Update, Jan 2015: Glostrup will not be participating in this year’s Kulturuge, following Brøndby in leaving the intiative, which they don’t feel has “taken flight”. The event is funded by the members of Vestegnens Kulturinvesteringsråd to the tune of two kroner per head of population, but as a result of Glostrup’s departure this will go up to four kroner per head.
A quick look back at Vestegnens Kulturuge 2014 (Facebook | Regionalavisen coverage), a local festival which took place from 6-14 September, and a good opportunity to pull together some local history about areas we explore on our walks and beyond. More than 150 events hosted by 140 organisations in seven kommuner, some shared with Golden Days. Second time out – see post re 2013 edition,
Vestegnen is the name given to a flexible group of kommuner at the top of the Køge Bugt – see Visit Vestegnen for more. Mainly suburbs built on villages/landsbyer (there are usually some traces) after WW2 to provide housing for the burgeoning population, now with a 19% invandrer population. No fairytale towers or harbour baths here. Putting all the kommuner together gives you a population of over 250k, perhaps in a better position to offer services and cultural support akin to that in Copenhagen ‘proper’. Maybe more joint initiatives could make for a more dynamic area able to attract investment and undertake some creative redevelopment.
The programme for the week was available via Issuu or Kultunaut, hele Danmarks event calendar, with search, display by day or on a map. A lot of the events were child/family oriented, but the following had some appeal.
Avedøre and Hvidøre
Sunday saw the biennial family oriented Aeronautisk Dag at Avedøre Flyveplads (Facebook | Forstadsmuseet). Tucked away between Brøndby Havn and a motorway is Denmark’s oldest airfield, dating from 1917. It was used by the Danske Luftfartsselskab for test flights in the 1920s, and by the Nazis to test motors from 1943. Best story: a US B17 made a emergency landing nearby in 1943, thinking they had made it to neutral Sweden.
Closed in 1945, the airfield was used as a store by the military and Hvidovre highways dept, but reopened in 2001, thanks largely to the support of enthusiasts, with a limited number of flights permitted each year.
As well as a grassy runway the site consists of two red hangars from 1917, listed in 1986, constructed in timber so they could be burned down in the event of war, and a 100m long engine testing facility from 1943, made up of a row of 10 interconnected testing halls. The biennial display includes vintage planes and cars, hot air balloons, kites. It’s also a nice area for a walk.
Less successful is Hvidovre Torv, a surviving part of the original village opposite the old church, one of those public spaces which hasn’t really worked. Frequent articles in the local paper bemoan the lack of life and ambition on the square, with this week the news that five of its 10 chestnut trees have succombed to kastanieminermøl and are to be felled. I tend to the sceptical about the urge to fell, but in this case the trees are to be replaced with “large” tulipantræer, and the gravel which teenagers persist in throwing into the fountain, blocking it from doing its thing, is to be replaced with shrubbery. Hurrah!
During the festival the square was transformed into a Norse mythology inspired art installation (review) by Karoline H Larsen in conjunction with Hvidovre Produktionsskole, who brightened up the nearby shopping centre with Fra Ingenmandsland til Allemandsliv last year. There was also Mobil Lyd, a pop-up musical something or other from Yes DR Far, and folk dancing. (Shudders. One day I’ll work out what Danish folk dancing is about.)
In the shopping centre itself pupils from Langhøjskolen and artists Cold & Butt (it’s their names…) mounted Save the Apple, an installation “questioning the way we as a society perceive packaging and food waste”, ie making apple juice and pancakes. There’s a video, showing off the increasingly forlorn shopping centre.
Albertslund and Vallensbæk
Slightly further afield is Albertslund, an area which doesn’t have the best of reputations but makes the most of what it’s got. Named after a French count who fled to Denmark in 1802, most of the area was laid out in the 1960s in best modernist style, with the population growing from 3000 to 30,000 over a period of eight years. Inspired by the Garden City Movement (again) it’s strictly zoned and emphatically low density, made up of terraced houses and a network of separate roads and bike/pedestrian paths. Another feature is the canal quarter, which aims to make an attraction out of the drainage system.
Moving swiftly on from Har du lys til at vandre? (a play on ‘Fancy a walk?’ and ‘Got a light?’, involving a bonfire, warm soup and goodnight stories) from the local library, Kroppedal Museum offered På tur gennem Albertslunds historie, a walk through the area’s cultural heritage, from Opstandelseskirken (church, 1984) to the rather older Statsfængsel (state prison, 1859). There was also a guided tour of Skulpturbank Hyldespjældet, a sculpture gallery in an area of public housing. It seems that sculptors park their work at Hyldespjældet until it is sold or sent to an exhibition, how about that?
Other arty things on during the week included Streetart with William Hjort (the brains behind Roskilde Festival Graffiti) on the viaduct between Vallensbæk Sø and ditto Mose on the Køge Bugt motorway to the south of Albertslund; same kommune but two motorways away from DIAS (Facebook), Vallensbæk’s digital arts gallery, which offered Sound Treasures and video workshops, culminating in a Videoextravaganza and lounge on Saturday. DIAS receives support from the Danish Art Fund and DSB, an interesting initiative all round.
Revisiting a 1968 dérive undertaken by a group of artists in Albertslund walking group Gåafstand wrote in 2010: “[the] lack of horizon makes one feel a bit disoriented and can cause a loss of sense of direction”. Certainly the streets tend to be empty and devoid of much life, but could expansion and renewal be an alternative solution to the prevailing redevelopment rhetoric of stacked egg boxes with minimal space to breath? An issue though is that these developments were built quickly with little attention to quality, meaning that at a time of low house prices it’s often cheaper to pull individual houses down than renovate them.
On the beach
More art if less walking from Copenhagen Art Run (Facebook | preview | coverage; oi Copenhagen, get yer own art run), a 5km run (walking also permitted, mind) for body, soul and all the senses, held along the beach at modern art gallery Arken in Ishøj. Artists are invited to submit works for display or to entertain along the route, and the race is not timed.
The beach in question is the 7.2 km long Køge Bugt Strandpark, stretching from Avedøre Holme to Hundige Strand, a wholly artificial construction complemented by four small marinas and six salt water lakes. The idea for the beach was first mooted in the 1930s but did not become a reality until 1980, after 5 million km2 of sand had been pumped out of the sea bed. This stretch of coast is a mixture of suburban overspill, summer houses and caravan sites, a legacy of the feriekolonier set up for residents of inner city Copenhagen, who followed the road from Valby to Køge by rutebil/omnibus or bicycle during the summer holidays.
This period was celebrated in Sommerliv langs Gammel Køge Landevej, a bike ride led by Forstadsmuseet’s Lisbeth Hollensen from the site of Flaskekroen at Åmarken Station, one of a series of former roadside inns, to Brøndby Strandhotel. The road (Køgevejen), laid in the 1720s and running from Valby to Køge, is now synonymous with car traffic, with the Køge bus discontinued a couple of years ago.
Telling local histories
The local museums and archives do a great job of preserving Vestegnen’s history, which is also kept alive through the revived tradition of oral storytelling. Vestegnens Fortællerkreds held its annual festival on the last night of Kulturuge, and Hvidovre libraries is offering Hvidovre FortælleLab, a free course, over the autumn.